The Lesson Paul Newman Taught Tom Cruise On The Set Of The Color Of Money

Acting classes can be a little weird. You could be repeating the same sentence back and forth with another person for an hour, crawling around on the ground like a dog, or lying down with your eyes closed, conjuring up the feeling of what it would be like for your mom to get murdered. These exercises to a non-actor sound absolutely insane, and that's totally understandable. But for a lot of actors out there, these techniques could prove valuable down the line when a certain scene recalls this kind of sense memory. Actors can take the exercises and techniques they find valuable and use them throughout their entire career. This is why Nicolas Cage says acting is "like a mixed martial art."

While craft is an incredibly important piece if you want to be a successful actor, rarely do acting classes reflect the practical reality of it being your profession. Some things just don't enter your mind when you are preparing for a role that is going to shoot in several months. Tom Cruise had to learn a valuable lesson the hard way while he was shooting Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money," the sequel to "The Hustler." Thanks to his co-star Paul Newman, a fully minted movie star by the time they shot the film in early 1986, Cruise would never make this kind of moviemaking faux pas ever again.

Paul Newman, The Weather Man

When Tom Cruise was on "The Graham Norton Show," he told a story about working with Paul Newman that demonstrates the kind of thing you can only learn by actually working long enough as an actor. Why would an acting class provide this kind of instruction? It technically does not have anything to do with actual acting. You just need to have the foresight to understand what Chicago is going to be like in January. Cruise said:

"I was like, 'I'm gonna have a leather jacket and t-shirt. I'm gonna have my hair blown back. It's guaranteed up to 90 miles an hour. And there I am in January, and I'm shooting this scene. And I remember in the script, it was like outside. I didn't think about it. Wardrobe's like, 'Yeah it looks great.' And I am doing this scene, and I mean, I'm telling you, it's so cold I can't even speak. I'm in between takes, and [Newman] is in a car, and I'm running to this area. They're trying to thaw [me]. Newman's like, 'Where's the kid? Where's the kid?' So finally, I have this scene where he's in the car, and I'm next to him. I look in, and I'm like, 'What?' He had the warm coat. He had the heater in there. It was an electric heater, OK? ... He looked at me, and he's like, 'T-shirt? You tried your wardrobe on in the summer, didn't you?' I was like, 'Yes, sir. I did.' He's like, 'Watch and learn, kid. Watch and learn.' I never forgot it. I literally never forgot it."

Tom Cruise was so preoccupied by making this cool, fun movie about pool with a major director and a massive movie star that the thought of freezing himself to his bones didn't even cross his mind. It probably wouldn't cross most of our minds either. We usually aren't thinking about what the weather is going to be like five months ahead of time, making sure we set aside the proper coat for that day. But that's something an actor might have to think about, and it has very little to do with what the performance you give between action and cut.

Now, Cruise Stays Warm

Fast forward from 1986 to 2018 with the release of "Mission: Impossible – Fallout." A lot of the talk surrounding the film, of course, centered on the tremendous action set pieces, such as Tom Cruise breaking his ankle during a stunt, and the saga of Henry Cavill's mustache. One tidbit I always enjoyed about the movie came from a discussion with director Christopher McQuarrie on one of his several hour-long podcasts with Empire Magazine about his "Mission: Impossible" films. During the opening of "Fallout," Cruise' Ethan Hunt is awakened from a nightmare about his ex-wife and him being turned to ash in a nuclear explosion. He is meant to be in a bunker in Belfast, where it is quite cold. McQuarrie, along with cinematographer Rob Hardy, struggled to figure out a way to make the space feel like it was cold. Then ... it came to them.

Between takes, because it actually was cold where they were shooting, Tom Cruise had these space heaters rolled in to keep him warm. He isn't just sitting around in a t-shirt anymore, folks. McQuarrie sees the red-orange light emanating from the heaters shine onto Cruise's body, and he realizes this is exactly how to convey the cold in that scene. So not only has Paul Newman's lesson to Tom Cruise about preparing for shooting conditions held throughout his career, but it also helped creatively solve a problem in one of his biggest films over 30 years later. Learning is important, even for the biggest blockbuster stars in the world.